China’s crackdown on fantasy literature and video games poses a critical obstacle to readers, authors, and those who seek to make these works accessible. Why restrict these apparently innocuous stories? Eric R Stone interviews censored writers who describe how censorship and outright banning of certain concepts, words, and allusions render works of fiction unintelligible.
Our News, Your News
While the Paper Republic newsletter is on hiatus, why not check out this first of my columns for the China Books Review, on my recommendations for the latest fiction translated from the Chinese language (whatever that is).
My Cat Hates Me by Bai Cha, translated by Jemma Stafford (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2022, ISBN 978-1-61254-584-4) won the Gold Prize in the Graphic Novel section of the 2023 Benjamin Franklin IPBA Awards!
Translated by Jeremy Tiang and Eric Abrahamsen, Xu Zechen’s Beijing Sprawl introduces us to a ragtag quartet of would-be social climbers. The high cost of urban living, accompanied by thundering tedium and punctuated with shocking violence, proves to be a devilishly swirling drain from which there can be no escape in Xu’s interconnected fictions.
As an author, I write certain things that likewise seep into my heart, and there’s no way to get them out. I need to live with them. This is how I see the connection between people and their work: as wood shavings that find a place in your heart without your realizing it, and which affect not only you but also those who come after you.
There are two weeks left before the deadline for early-bird applications for Bristol Translates, a virtual summer school aimed at practising translators at any stage of their career and at language enthusiasts who want to explore the world of literary translation. Bristol Translates offers the opportunity to work with leading professional translators to translate texts across the literary genres into English.
The overall deadline is in June.
For Chinese, Nicky Harman and Jack Hargreaves will be leading the workshops, which will be supplemented with a rich programme of talks and activities.
See you there!
“The uniqueness of Chang’s writing lies in its fusion of literary aesthetics and narrative styles from the East and the West: his portrayal of the plantations in Borneo reads like a transplant of Faulkner’s American South to the Indonesia Archipelago, and his stream of consciousness style narrative traversing between the character’s psychic and the tropical rainforest terrain inject Chinese literature with a unique sensorial experience similar to that of Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realism. In a sense, it is not at all far-fetched to claim that Chang’s writing can be read as a unique branch of Chinese literature as world literature.”
– E.K. Tan (Stony Brook University), Chang Kuei-hsing's nominator
Hospital starts off with a fairly straightforward, plot-driven narrative: Yang Wei goes on a business trip to C City, drinks a bottle of complementary mineral water in his hotel room, is almost immediately struck down with unbearable stomach pain, and after passing out for three days, is taken to a local hospital by several members of the hotel staff. And then things gradually start to get strange…flourishes of the uncanny begin to appear and the reader is quickly transported further and further away from the book’s early realist setting into a strange, dark, and increasingly unsettling universe.
By Jack Hargreaves, December 20, '22
Paper Republic is planning a new READ PAPER REPUBLIC, our online publication featuring short fiction (to see previous editions, click here). This edition is focused on the delicious theme of food.
Very sad news.
Illustrated in a composite style of simple comics and classic Chinese art, My Cat Hates Me follows the daily exploits of a petulant "purr-sonality", his canine sidekick, and their long-suffering artist owner. Bestselling author Bai Cha has drawn millions of fans to his comic series "Cat and Dog." Now, the first installment of My Cat Hates Me makes its long-anticipated U.S. debut. Translated by Jemma Stafford. 白茶:《就喜欢你看不惯我又干不掉我的样子》
By Nicky Harman, December 18, '22
Welcome to the 2022 list of literary works translated from Chinese into English. There is the usual eclectic mix listed below – from scifi to crime, to all other types of good and readable fiction. We have included poetry too, and children’s and young adult fiction. If anyone has any entries to add, please let us know at email@example.com and we’ll add them. Similarly with star reviews and other newsy items. Enjoy browsing!
Let us also take the chance to remind you that Paper Republic is a UK-registered charity (non-profit). We are run by volunteers and depend on your donations. Everything you give us goes towards our mission, to promote Chinese literature in translation. Please consider donating here: Paper Republic donations link See also the Benevity.org charitable portal. If your employer gives matching funds for donations, Benevity is a great chance to amplify your generosity.
Acclaimed author Paul French rounds up this year's best fiction in translation from China, and reveals 2 coming up in 2023 you should get ready for
One is brand-new: Wild Grass and Morning Blossoms Gathered at Dusk, translated by Eileen J Cheng, edited by Theodore Huters, Harvard University Press (September 2022).
The other is recent: Weeds, translated by Matt Turner. Seaweed Salad Editions (2019)
Dinner for Six by Lu Min, tr. Nicky Harman and Helen Wang (Balestier Press, Nov 2022)
Under the stench of factory skies, two single parents and their four teenaged children gather together for Saturday dinners. But can widowed accountant Su Qin ever publicly acknowledge her socially-mismatched relationship with Ding Bogang, a laid-off manual worker? Can she bear to see her ambitious and studious daughter form a romantic connection with his son? Can her obese son create the perfect family he craves? Will Ding Bogang’s silly married daughter ever get pregnant?
In a story about growing up and the complications of family life, two generations of lonely individuals come together against the odds, learning to love as they traverse the long and arduous journey of life.
Wong May represents a middle ground between Pound, with his barely intelligible Chinese, and sinologists with their near-pedantic veracity. As a bilingual poet who can harness her own experience of diaspora and the long afterlives of war and displacement, she offers a lived intimacy that one hopes will become increasingly prevalent in the field of translation. “Poetry lives in the present—though it happened in Tang China,” she writes. “I do not mean the poem should read like it has just been translated, but like it has just been written.”
By Nicky Harman, October 15, '22
The first session of the book club, held last week, was a great success. 70 + participants from all over the world discussed Yan Ge's short story Sissy Zhong, translated by Nicky Harman, with great enthusiasm. Book here for the second session on 18 November. We will be discussing an essay from Sanmao's Tales of the Sahara, and are delighted that the translator, Mike Fu, will join us from Tokyo. Registration is free.
By Jack Hargreaves, October 10, '22
Hello, hello, a happy autumn to one and all! (It's my favourite season, can you tell?)
It's been a while since the last instalment of this here newsletter came out, and a lot has happened between those heady dog days of August and now, some of which you might have missed. So wherever there are recordings of events I've included them below. And of course, if there's something that has happened in the world of Chinese lit over the past few months that isn't below, please do send in the article or link and I'll pop it in the list [website only].
The reason for this is, though you might have been waiting eagerly chewing at the bit for this issue to come out, it is nevertheless going to be the last one for a short while. Probably until early next year, in fact. We enjoy running the newsletter and putting it together, and there has been some lovely feedback about it as a resource, for which we thank you, but we need to rethink how to make it more readily sustainable and maintainable for those of us behind the scenes. In the meantime, a period of rest is in order (instead of a period of procrastination, which is what the last three months have been). We hope you'll stick around and stay subscribed for when the new issue drops into your inboxes come January or February, and if it happens that any of you have any interest in being part of running a newsletter for Chinese literature in translation on a voluntary basis, then be sure to get in touch. The same goes for if you have or know of any news that you think would fit the newsletter, now or anytime in the future; you can always email news AT paper-republic DOT org with anything Chinese-lit-related that you think worth sharing. If it's urgent, and waiting until the next issue would mean missing out, we'll post it straight onto the website and socials (Facebook, WeChat and Twitter for the time being).
Anyway, this issue is review- and release-heavy. So go wonder at all the shiny new books you can spend your hard-earned cash on just in time for Christmas. Oh, and any aspiring or emerging (budding, fledgling, nascent) translators out there with a short piece of fiction or non-fiction about food which you think needs translating or you have lying about in a drawer ready-translated, keep those hungry eyes peeled for a call for submissions in the not-so-distant future.
Happy holidays y'all. Here's to a smashing end of the year (we can dream, eh!).
By Jack Hargreaves, August 3, '22
Hey everyone! We're jumping right into the news in this instalment, since it's a little overdue. Do keep your eyes peeled on the Paper Republic website for a new Read Paper Republic series in the very, very near future. This one is guest-edited and includes some of our favourite Chinese poets and translators.
Nobel Prize Laureate Mo Yan recently published an article on his WeChat account clarifying that many poems and articles apparently signed with his name online were actually not his works.
By Jack Hargreaves, June 11, '22
Folks, not to brag, but I've all but stopped using social media for a month now (by circumstance rather than by choice) and it's been a lovely holiday for the mind. It also means, in case you're wondering why my boasting is relevant, this month's newsletter is a short one. That's right, like many millennials, I source most of my news from the socials, and that includes Chinese-lit related news.
Here's to a more jampacked newsletter next month, when I inevitably fall back into old habits.
In the meantime, direct your attention toward the upcoming Aberdeen Festival of Translation. By upcoming, I mean it starts on Monday 13th June with a workshop led by Nicky Harman. But there is plenty more to come.
By Eric Abrahamsen, June 7, '22
Check out this brilliant conversation between renowned Chinese writer and UK-based novelist, Xiaolu Guo 郭小櫓 and publisher James Tookey of Peirene Press, led by our Emily Jones and held to mark the launch of The Paper Republic Guide to Contemporary Chinese Literature. The Guide begins with an in-depth introduction by Xiaolu, followed by biogs of almost 100 of the most important writers working in the Chinese language today, and essays ranging from the role of the author to science fiction to popular Chinese internet literature.
Uncle Tall Tale: On “Mo Yan Speaks: Lectures and Speeches by the Nobel Laureate from China” - review by Astrid Møller-Olsen in the LARB, 31 May 2022
Mo Yan's lectures and speeches translated and edited by Shiyan Xu. With an introduction by Jonathan Stalling
Following its well-received debut last year, our online programme of paid workshops and free talks focusing on literary translation run in conjunction with Aberdeen Confucius Institute is back for 2022, running from 13 June to 2 July.
Events are aimed at professional and aspiring translators, and will cover a wide and fascinating range of topics.
See the link for more details!
By Jack Hargreaves, May 13, '22
Remember news of Han Song's new novel Hospital, coming out from Amazon Crossing (read our chat with acquiring editor Gabriella Page-Fort here)? We've got a look at the striking cover, check it out!
By Jack Hargreaves, May 12, '22
We interview three Chinese-Spanish translators about their relationship to Chinese, the books they've translated, and the translation collectives they're in. Find their answers below:
By Jack Hargreaves, May 12, '22
Happy Friday y'all!
This issue comes with a set of brilliant answers to questions we put to three Chinese-Spanish translators, as a continuation of our previous collab with their respective translator collectives. See those answers here. We hope to have more collaboration with Chinese translators and publishers into more languages besides Chinese, so if you fall into one of those categories, feel free to get in touch.
First, let me direct your attention to the great events there are coming up, which for the first time in a long time are all in person. So Londoners and Copenhageners, get to booking.
Oh, and remember news of Han Song's new novel Hospital, coming out from Amazon Crossing (read our chat with acquiring editor Gabriella Page-Fort here? We've got a look at the striking cover, check it out!